Music can be a source of community. For students, band or orchestra can be a place to make friends, connect over a passion and ground yourself, and all this starts with an instrument.
That’s where Mountain View music store West Valley Music steps in. The business stocks sheet music and hosts music lessons, but it’s most well-known for selling and renting instruments and supporting school orchestras and bands of all age groups.
West Valley Music has been around since the early ‘90s, but it moved into its newest location on El Camino just a month ago.
For customer Rajesh Gopinath, who came to West Valley Music to pick up a saxophone for his son to use in his school band, the store’s accessible website and guidance from the staff on what he needed to buy for his son made renting easy.
“I’m a total novice at music, … but the website was very accessible,” Gopinath said. “You don’t get the kind of advice or counsel that you normally get from a store like this if you’re purchasing online.”
Supporting customers like this is what sets West Valley Music apart. The business is very connected with school music programs, and even assists schools in building those programs.
The business supports school fundraisers and events, and works with individual teachers to ensure that students have the instruments they need.
Playing an instrument can be a source of community for students, and current store owner Diana Tucker — as a former band kid herself — understands this.
“[We want] to support and strengthen the arts in all ages — [from] kids [to] adults in our community,” Tucker said. “Band is this special grounding for a lot of kids that you have. It provides you with your group, with your ‘peeps.’ And it gives you a stable place to do school and to work out your social life and so forth.”
Tucker said that she wanted to make sure that students today had the opportunity to participate in good band programs because it was helpful for her when she was young. She is able to relate to her customers because of her experiences as an instrumentalist.
In fact, West Valley Music used to be a repair-oriented store, so as a student Tucker often visited to repair her flute and she would help out in the store when it was busy. Eventually, running the business took too much of a toll on original owner Dennis Haney’s health. He had to give up the store, so Tucker took on the business and has owned it for the last 23 years.
In the years since, she’s seen an entire generation of customers grow up and bring their own kids in to start their musical journeys.
“We have grandbabies of people that have come to the store,” Tucker said. “I have teachers in the area that used to be our fifth graders.”
Two years ago, the pandemic forced West Valley Music to close down, taking half of Tucker’s income and forcing her to cut expenses. The uncertainty that COVID-19 brought with it made it difficult for West Valley to continue.
“The issue with it at the front is that we just didn’t know: A, what to do, and B, what was going to happen in two weeks,” Tucker said.
Since West Valley Music relied on schools for many of their customers, when those music programs shut down, the business had to rebuild.
As part of that process, Tucker found a new location, which recently opened on El Camino.
“I had to just go out and look, and I found this place which is spectacular anyway, but … much less [expensive],” Tucker said.
Although it took a long time to move in, Tucker said the location was a huge upgrade for the business when it finally started operating, and finding the new space was a silver lining of the pandemic.
Even with all the struggles that COVID brought, West Valley Music was able to reopen.
“Our strength was that we are very firmly connected to the community. So as things come back to the community, they’ll come back here,” Tucker said.
Meeting the needs of music students is what Tucker bought West Valley Music for, and it’s what she hopes she will be able to continue doing.
“This is just life’s passion, and it’s a life focus for me personally,” Tucker said. “I’ve grown so much in dealing with all the issues that are in a small business. And certainly there’s the benefits of all the employees that I’ve had … and all the customers that have been with us for years, decades, and all the new kids too. It’s a good way to live your life.”
West Valley Music is open on 300 W El Camino Real, Mountain View, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.